Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I spend a large portion of my musing time imagining alternate scenarios to the way we live now. Not just us, our nuclear unit, but us in the community sense. My mind tends to run toward idealistic strategies. (As a counterbalance, much of the rest of my musing time is spent in arguing the merits of my own personal beliefs to imaginary companions.)

I try to imagine my world, more-or-less just as it is, but with certain intractable problems no longer so intractable. The ability to work, make money, have colleagues...and still be able to meet the school bus, or volunteer in class. The ability to live in a place that is pleasant and friendly and reasonably convenient to the places we need to go, yet isn't mostly surfaced in asphalt, shingles, and bluegrass turf.

One of the things I've been imagining lately is how to live once a person's mobility has been compromised, specifically, the mobility afforded by the personal car (a development that often dovetails with a loss of physical mobility). According to what I've read recently, the best place to live as an older, mobility-compromised person is the walking-friendly village or dense urban neighborhood you grew old in, or on an estate with servants, a driver, and a legion of loving relatives with their own separate quarters. I've been wondering about ways those of us who missed the train on (a) or (b) can create their benefits with the materials at hand.

As I muse, I've been using the specific example of an older relative who can see the end of her driving days in her rear-view mirror. How to recreate the village in the suburbs, at a price that's affordable for a person on a limited budget? I will leave aside the issue that one of the sacred tenets of this particular person's personal identity has been her ability to spend all day out and about in her car. That's separate, I think. The basic problem here is systemic.

For example, this person lives in a 55-and-older neighborhood, which is not, as it happens, well-designed to accommodate people who can no longer drive. For one thing, the nearest grocery store is two miles away. For another, the very 55-and-older-ness of the community has bred a certain vicious paranoia about infirmity: the residents here are too close to the age of immobility to brook any suggestion of weakness in that quarter. You drive or you leave, seems to be the consensus. Finally, the 55-and-older-ness has shut off other avenues of community engagement, such as having younger relatives (like us) living nearby. I think such a community could foster ways to gracefully accommodate the gradual loss of mobility and increase in isolation; I just don't think this one has. So I imagine ways this could change: daily dinners at the clubhouse, for example. A mobile pharmacy. A bus service. An errand service.

Even better, I think, would be a community that was closer to us. As suburbs go, we're pretty walkable: we have a nearby grocery store, restaurants, and library (what more does a person want? if a person is me, anyway.) With a little tweaking - such as extending the sidewalks surrounding the grocery store so that they actually extend into the surrounding neighborhoods, instead of dumping pedestrians into traffic in random places - this could be a suburb friendly to unsteady older adults on foot. Oh, and also we'd have to do something about that big road, the one with all the cars. This tends to be a theme in my alternate scenarios. It's not exactly that's I'm anticar, it's just I'd rather there were many, many more places where cars were not. (Am I willing to give up my car to achieve this scenario? No! I mean, not yet.)

So. I'm really not any closer to figuring this one out (and there's the added intractability of the fact that this is a real person with a real problem that we really need to address, sooner than later, and it needs to be affordable and also needs to not involve anyone moving into our basement) (which would be imperfect anyway, because of all the stairs) (notice how I'm not even mentioning the personality problems.)

 And now, for something completely different: it's Western Wear week, and I totally caved.

Not-pink boots were so completely not an option.


Alien in CH said...

I love the pink boots. They could use some glitter, though. As far as the mobility thing goes, that will be the absolute number one thing I miss when we return to the U.S. -- sidewalks and convenient public transportation. Of course, the Swiss are willing and able to pay for it, and not every country or community has that luxury.

Alien in CH said...

I've been thinking all week about "arguing the merits of my own personal beliefs to imaginary companions." I do the exact same thing and I wonder: If we are going to create imaginary friends for ourselves, why wouln't we make them supportive?

Melospiza said...

Ha! Actually, the objects of my argumentative brilliance (cough) tend to have the vague outlines of people I technically know. They don't really bear much resemblance to these actual people - for one thing, they sit quietly and listen and don't offer anything in the way of counterargument that I can't easily demolish. For another, I tend to make up their opinions.

But, to answer your question: embarrassingly, it's much more satisfying to have imaginary opponents who are vanquished into awe by my words than to have imaginary listeners who already believe everything I say.